Severe thunderstorms to hit NSW as bushfires continue to burn | Australia news
An unpredictable mix of fire and rain will hit Victoria and New South Wales on Sunday, as the country’s months-long bushfire crisis continues.
Severe thunderstorms have been forecast for large parts of NSW and flood warnings have been issued for the Bellinger and Orara rivers on the NSW mid-north coast.
On Sunday morning, the emergency level fire that flared on French Island at Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula was downgraded to advice.
Victoria’s state opposition leader, Michael O’Brien, said the Victorian parliament should move at least one sitting week to bushfire-hit regions such as East Gippsland.
O’Brien said he had written to the premier, Daniel Andrews, arguing it would stimulate the economy and allow residents to speak to politicians directly.
As of Sunday, 69 fires were still burning in NSW and 15 in Victoria.
Up to 15mm of rain was forecast to fall over parts of East Gippsland and up to 50mm on the NSW mid-north-coast. However, other parts of both states, such as the NSW Snowy Valley and Victorian northern country, where the cross-border Corryong fire burns, will receive only 5-10mm of rain.
“Lightning strikes have the potential to start fires so that is a concern for us,” a Country Fire Association spokeswoman said.
The French Island fire was upgraded to emergency status at 4.30pm on Saturday, but then downgraded at 10.30pm after fire authorities strengthened containment lines.
On Sunday morning, through East Gippsland all fires were burning at advice level. But fires remained at watch and act in the alpine region around Mount Buffalo national Park and the town of Bright.
The federal government also announced a $76m tourism package – as part of its already-announced $2bn bushfire fund – with $25m to be spent on an international advertising campaign to tell visitors that “Australia is safe and open for business”.
In the tourism package, $20m will be spent on a domestic ad campaign and $10m has been set aside to create new tourist attractions – such as events, festivals or art – in bushfire-hit areas.
The tourism minister, Simon Birmingham, said this represented a “break from the practice of Tourism Australia exclusively focusing on international visitors” and was an “urgent” appeal to local visitors as well.
The rest of the package includes $9.5m to be spent on bringing international TV shows and media to Australia, $6.5m for Tourism Australia’s annual trade industry event and $5m for the country’s diplomatic network.